Madam Speaker, I am pleased to find a few minutes to join my colleagues. It is always interesting following my colleague from Thornhill, who is my riding's representative. I think we are all here for the same reason, which is that we want to make a difference in the lives of many people. We may come from different sides of the equation on a variety of issues, but other than that, outside the House I think all of us get along quite well and are actually working at trying to get along better, in spite of all the things that get said here in the House.
I am pleased to have a few minutes to comment on the budget and its importance. I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Parkdale—High Park.
The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance introduced budget 2023, called “A Made-in-Canada Plan: Strong Middle Class, Affordable Economy, Healthy Future”, and I think those are the words that talk about all of us Canadians and what we want, where we want to go and the kind of Canada we want to see.
Canadians are clear: They want good jobs. They want clean air. They want a strong economy where everyone has a fair and real chance of success. Our government, I believe, is providing just that.
In the months and years to come, we need to seize the remarkable opportunity before us. There are two fundamental shifts in the global economy. The first is the race to build clean economies of the 21st century. Clearly, when we look at climate change, the impact on the environment and what has happened this year in North America when it comes to storms and tornadoes and so on, these are pure examples of the need for investment in fighting climate change. Second, our allies are accelerating efforts to friendshore their economies by building their critical supply chains through democracies like our own. These are two great opportunities to move Canada forward and make the world a better place.
At a challenging time and in a challenging world, budget 2023 will ensure that Canadians can continue to count on their government to be there for them in good times and in bad. Budget 2023 is focused on making life more affordable and making housing more affordable. I think we have heard about housing all day today, which is great, because for years we were not talking about housing. We knew there was a tremendous need. Our national housing strategy and the investment of billions of dollars that our government has made over the years ensure that affordable housing is being built and that seniors and others have access to good-quality housing.
Focusing on making life more affordable, for the middle class as well, includes investing in growing the economy and also strengthening Canada's social safety net. I am very proud to have seen what our government has done, through the difficulty with the pandemic and so on.
Budget 2023 is also delivering new measures for support for the most vulnerable Canadians with respect to the cost of living. Particularly, budget 2023 offers a one-time grocery rebate. It is a bit interesting to call it a grocery rebate, as my colleague pointed out earlier, but that is what it is. It is to help offset a few dollars of the cost of living, which seniors and many people on limited incomes are struggling with.
The budget provided, again, $2.5 billion. That may sound like a little bit of money when one talks about a grocery rebate, but when one is looking at the overall costs to the tax envelope, $2.5 billion is a considerable amount of money, and that is targeted inflation assistance for over 11 million low- and middle-income Canadians and families.
Moreover, this year's budget introduces automatic tax filing for low-income Canadians. My office, for the last 15 or 16 years, has provided four Saturdays each year to give income tax support to low-income constituents in Humber River—Black Creek. This coming Saturday will be the fourth one we are doing. My staff come in on those four Saturdays and spend the day, along with registered accountants who come in and volunteer their time as well.
The fact that, in the future, some of these constituents will have their taxes done automatically will be a big help, because there is also a group of people who do not file, for a variety of reasons, and they are missing out on resources and money that they very much could use. I am always encouraging them to make sure that everybody files their income taxes. People say it is too cumbersome and too difficult, so we as a government are going to try to relieve that as well.
Another issue we continue to hear a lot about is education. All of us hear from student associations from the different universities and colleges. For many years, they have come to see us, asking about relief for their loans and about increasing their capacity. Now that students do not have to pay interest on their loans, that makes a huge difference for them. They will not be graduating from college or university with a $30,000 debt. The debt will be much lower than that and much more easily paid back after they have become employed and not before.
I have to say that I was really pleased to get some of the updated numbers for the year. In my riding itself, over $23 million was given out through the Canada child benefit. That is an important amount of money. Approximately $8,000 went to many individual families with children, and that makes a huge difference. When we see these families with backpacks, proper clothes and the like, we can tell that they have been receiving that extra support.
I will talk about the dental plan. Already 4,000 children have benefited from the new Canada dental program. We are talking not only about investing in the large items in the budget, but also about investing in people and making a difference in the lives of so many who are important. We talked about the dental program being expanded. I recall many times when I was knocking on doors talking to seniors who complained about the issue of dental costs. We cannot control what dentists charge. It is expensive, but seniors need dental care and do not have the money for it. With this dental program, they are going to be able to go to the dentist and get the kind of help they need as seniors, without having to put out thousands of dollars. They will get a degree of assistance that will make it more affordable.
Some of these measures are in place.
Now I will talk about the tax-free home savings plan. Most of us have children who want to buy a home. As of April 1, the tax-free first home savings account is now available to my grandchildren to help them purchase their first home, which is critically important for them. We all talk about people getting their foot in the market, and that is what this is intended to do. It will help as they go through the system.
Now I will get into the health care issue. As many members in the House did, I met with members of the Canadian Cancer Society today and heard first-hand about its challenges. Although we think we are moving ahead so quickly to solve problems, I listened to three women who told me of the difficulties they have had, of having to put out their own money for basic support within the Cancer Society and the health care system. They did not have sufficient income. They had to rely on being able to go to work to keep their health care, because there were no resources for them to access the necessary supports or mental health support. They talked about the length of time they had to wait to get treatment and about the issue of genetic testing, which we know is out there and available today, but was not available to many of these people. It took many years before they had the chance to get that, which was probably very late.
A lot of the stories I heard this morning from these women show us clearly that there are huge gaps in our health care system. More money has to be put into it, and, yes, it will be transferred to the provinces. We have to ensure the provinces are going to provide the services required, so at the federal level we have put in an additional $198 billion over 10 years, including $46 billion in new funding for provinces and territories that we want to see get transferred to our hospital system and our health care workers.